A recent article in The Wall Street Journal illustrated the ways in which children benefit from a little roughhousing with dad. Sessions of wrestling, tickling, horseback rides and pillow fights could lead to a more balanced or adjusted adolescence and adulthood. The article cites recent research, showing dads have a distinct style of parenting that is particularly worthy of recognition: The way dads tend to interact with their children has long-term benefits, independent of those linked to good mothering.
In general, men tend to challenge whining and crying, encouraging children to express themselves vocally. Also, dads typically aren’t as upset by children’s temper tantrums or fits. Men are more likely to shock or startle their children, being animated or sneaking up on them to play energetically. Even the way a dad holds the baby tends to differ from mom, men often cradling infants under the arm in a “football hold,” explains Kyle Pruett, co-author of “Partnership Parenting” and a clinical professor of child psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine.
For the child, roughhousing is about more than just play. Researchers believe that the most important aspect of this play is that it gives children a sense of achievement when they ‘defeat’ a more powerful adult, building their self-confidence and concentration. However, fathers who resist their children can also teach them the life lesson that, in life, you don’t always win. The act of a stronger adult holding back that strength also helps to build trust between father and child. These kinds of lessons can be crucial in child development, as they begin to form an outlook of the world and learn the art of resilience.
While, in general, each parent usually spends a large amount of the time playing with the children, dads offer a more physical form of play that has been linked to benefits such as: improved cognitive skills, fewer behavioral problems among school-age children, less delinquency among teenage boys and fewer psychological problems in young women, based on an analysis of 16 long-term studies of father involvement, published in 2008 in the scholarly journal Acta Paediatrica. Rambunctious play is also said to spark peaks of emotion or excitement, believed to help kids develop self-regulatory skills.
Although dads spend less time with the children on average, the time spent includes much more physical contact and play. As the child grows up, mom usually communicates more verbally and emotionally, while dad is encouraging and can offer fun distractions. Of course, families tend to function better when the mother and father are both present, working together to raise the child. Each parent has their own unique parenting style that is neither right or wrong, and hopefully the contrasting styles complement each other.
So, let’s be thankful for all the wonderful dads out there, who made us laugh until we cried and made us squeal with excitement. You make our lives happy and full. Hope that all had a Happy Father’s Day!
What’s your favorite memory of playing with dad?